United Kingdom: Right To Affordable Housing Is Being Eroded

If you talk to Commonwealth members, including the United Kingdom, we all feel that Fiji belongs to the Commonwealth. You cannot have members of the Commonwealth not behaving in the way club members are supposed to have otherwise you will undermine the viability and the ethos of the club. Fijis new Constitution was signed into law by President Ratu Epeli Nailatikau Friday, which now hastens the process towards national elections in September 2014, as promised by Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama. On its role in the Pacific region, Minister Swire acknowledged the need for the United Kingdom to continue its presence. My visit here comes after a successful trip to Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea in April. This visit came after the extraordinarily successful visit to Tuvalu and Solomon Islands of the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cambridge. The links between ourselves and this part of the world are historic, strong and enduring. We like to think that providing finance to climate change, and what is now known as the greatest challenge to this part of the world, shows our continuing commitment. I think its important that the UK is here to stay. What is sometimes forgotten is that we are the third largest donor in the Pacific in terms of the European Development fund which provides huge amount of money in the region, said Minister Swire. Minister Swire was in Majuro to head the UK delegation at the Post-Forum dialogue meeting with Pacific Leaders. The United Kingdom was one of the first countries that expressed its support for the Majuro Declaration on Climate Change Leadership. When people talk rather academically about the principles of climate change, they should come here to see the realities on the ground.

Rolnik, the system has been weakened by a series of measures over the years, notably by having privileged homeownership over other forms of tenure. Most recently, several reforms to the welfare system along with cuts in housing grants appear to compromise the realization of the right to adequate housing and other related human rights, she said. In particular, Ms. Rolnik pointed to the bedroom tax as a measure that has negatively affected many vulnerable citizens. The policy, introduced by the Government in April, charges tenants extra for under-occupying homes that are supposedly too large for them. The so-called bedroom tax has already had impacts on some of the most vulnerable members of society, Ms. Rolnik said. During these days of my visit, the dramatic testimonies of people with disabilities, grandmothers who are carers for their families, and others affected by this policy, clearly point to a measure that appears to have been taken without the human component in mind. While acknowledging that difficult economic times allow for difficult policy decisions, Ms. Rolnik underlined that this does not justify putting housing rights in jeopardy. The Special Rapporteur also expressed concerned over the conditions of private renters, as the reduction in the social housing stock and the credit downturn has forced a higher percentage of the population, notably young people, to the private sector. During her two-week mission, Ms. Rolnik visited London, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Belfast and Manchester, where she met with Government officials working on housing issues, various human rights commissions, academics and civil society.